What to taste before you train

We’ve all been there: justifying a guilty pleasure meal with the assumption that you’ll go work it off immediately after you are done eating. The truth, however, is that these unhealthy choices don’t always get 100 percent of your workout’s benefits, especially if eating junk food has become a habit.  Preparing the right way can eliminate these bad vibes and help you eat healthier through your workout and beyond.

As a rule of thumb, there are five components to stick with for pre-workout foods:

  1. Low fat
  2. Moderate carbohydrates/protein
  3. Low fiber
  4. High fluid content
  5. Familiar foods that your body tolerates well

Though it goes without saying, following these guidelines typically means avoiding sugary treats like candy and soft drinks, fried foods and greasy choices like burgers and fries.

But there are many delicious, healthy options for a meal before your workout! If you exercise in the morning try:

  • A piece of whole wheat toast or whole wheat bagel: whole wheat options are a good mix of complex and simple carbs which are easy to digest and provide energy boosts. Paired with fruit jam or some cinnamon, this is a great option to take on-the-go.
  • Oats and trail mix: seeds, nuts and oats all gradually release sugar and insulin into your bloodstream. Trail mixes that have more dried fruit and nuts are usually healthier too, just be careful of sodium contents.

If you’re an evening or afternoon gym-junkie, some foods with more sustenance include:

  • Brown rice and chicken: packed with protein and carbs, this meal tends to sit well during a workout and is packed with nutrients. Be sure to stick with brown rice over white and feel free to swap tofu for chicken for a vegetarian option.
  • Beans and lentils: legumes are another source of complex carbs that allow for the slow-release of energy. These foods can cause gas pains though so be sure to exercise portion control and consume legumes at least an hour before your workout.

Some foods, the more natural the better, are usually safe any time of day:

  • Bananas: loaded with digestible carbs to fuel you up and potassium to maintain nerve and muscle function, bananas are the ideal fruit to carry you to and through a workout.
  • Greek yogurt: yogurt is easy on the digestive system and packed with pro-biotics. The fresh dairy and protein in greek yogurt also provides energy boosts to sustain a lengthy workout.

Though you might think that similar principles apply to what you eat during and after a workout, bodily muscles and functions require different nutrients. It’s important to regulate your diet to the exercise patterns your body experiences. Keeping a balance of essential ingredients is key.

Photo credit: Chelsea Nesvig

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